Games I Finished in 2019

List items

  • 5/5 - I hereby declare 2019 the year of Tetris. Tetris Effect (also on this list) is the one that kicked off Tetris Fever for me, but Tetris 99 has the honor of turning it into a full-blown rabid obsession. Obviously the core mechanics of Tetris are timeless, but when you marry that with battle royale trappings, the strategies and decision-making that come out of that are what make Tetris 99 such a compelling game. Do I target my attackers, or target players with the most badges? Should I always try to keep a clean board, or make my stack high so that I can get a lot of players to target me? There are unique elements at play in Tetris 99 that single-player Tetris games simply don’t have, and those wrinkles are what kept me hooked.

    Along with all that, the game has received continuous updates throughout the year, like adding a daily quest system that allows players to earn tickets so that they can buy new themes. I was already playing Tetris 99 basically every night, but these quests added even more of an incentive for me to jump in there and keep playing. I’m sure there will come a time when I stop playing Tetris 99 on a daily basis, but as of right now, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • 1/19/2019

    5/5 - Into the Breach is a masterclass in making you feel like a genius tactician. With the game showing you what each enemy is going to do on each turn, nothing is hidden from you, and it is completely in your hands on whether each turn ends up being a rousing success or an utter failure. And there are a ton of different unit types that really change the approach and mindset you have going into each run. No game this year has reached the same level of satisfaction for me as pulling off the perfect turn in Into the Breach.

  • 12/6/2019

    5/5 - I know a lot of people became a little sick of the gunplay by the latter half, but I personally enjoyed the gameplay of Control my entire time with the game. All of the powers felt very satisfying to use, with the telekinetic throw and the levitation abilities being the stand outs. Launching a fire extinguisher and hearing the thunk of a metal canister hitting a Hiss right upside the head never got old. And I feel like the combat really hit its apex once you’re able to levitate, as you fly and dash around while engaging with the enemies. But everything else surrounding the gameplay is what elevated Control into one of my favorite games of the year. The concept of the Oldest House is such a great setting for a game, and the way the location plays with your perceptions and expectations is amazingly creative. And most times in video games, the side documents and collectibles you pick up are extremely forgettable, but in Control, I scoured each environment for all of the letters, reports, and videos I could find.

  • 12/27/2019

    5/5 - It was going to be hard for Life is Strange 2 to top the first one for me, but I think the sequel comes damn close. Emotionally, I still like Life is Strange 1 more (that just may be because it came first), but mechanically, Life is Strange 2 vastly improves on how it handles player choice. One of the biggest criticisms of the first game was that the final decision basically wiped away all of the choices you made throughout the entire season. The second game directly addresses that issue by ensuring that every single choice throughout all 5 episodes impacts the brothers’ relationship in some sort of way, and the nature of their relationship plays a significant role in how many of the major story beats play out, including the finale of the game. The story does an excellent job at tackling very sensitive subjects, and I greatly appreciate Life is Strange 2 having the bravery to do so, especially in a climate where many developers are actively avoiding putting politics in their games.

  • 2/12/2019

    5/5 - Tetris Effect is really the game that sowed the seeds of what would become a Tetris-obsessed year. All of the visual and audio elements coalesce into making a simply dazzling aesthetic, which is then wrapped around the most eternal of all games: goddamn Tetris. And beating the Journey mode on Expert difficulty was one of my most triumphant achievements in video games this year. Every passing day, the winds blow stronger...

  • 7/28/2019

    5/5 - I've never played the original Resident Evil 2, but this game is so fantastic on its own merits that no nostalgia is necessary. This remaster intelligently combines the survival horror aspect of the first few Resident Evil games with tight controls that you would expect from a modern third-person action game. And the map deserves special mention for providing the player with so much useful information, especially in a game where backtracking is such a key component of the experience.

  • 11/6/2019

    5/5 - The original Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite games of all time. But replaying this remastered version as an adult has made me realize just how straight up weird and wacky this game is. All of the Mario and platforming elements seem pretty insane in hindsight to be in a mainline Zelda game, and there are just some outdated game design principles in here, like an unusually long fetch quest being one of the most important throughlines in the entire game. With all of that being said, this realization won’t stop me from regarding the original Link’s Awakening as one of my favorite games (from my childhood) of all time.

  • 1/4/2019

    5/5 - The only WarioWare games I've played before were Touched and Smooth Moves, so getting a compilation of some of the best microgames in this incredible franchise was an aboslute godsend. And of course, the wacky tone that is the heart and soul of the WarioWare and Rhythm Heaven franchises is in full force here as well.

  • 2/11/2019 (The day I got my first chicken dinner!)

    5/5 - Leave it to Respawn to make a battle royale of this caliber. The "runnin' around" is what makes Apex Legends such a joy to play. Both the fluidity of the movement and the wide variety of different character abilities give you opportunities to flee or engage at will, and that's often not an option in the battle royale genre.

  • 1/6/2019

    5/5 - As someone who was a teen in the mid 2000s, using AIM to talk to my high school crushes was practically second nature to me. Emily is Away uses the wonderfully nostalgic AIM aesthetic to tell a short but surprisingly complex story about the relationship between Emily and player character, and how that relationship evolves over time.

    But the AIM trappings aren’t purely a visual conceit; the fact that the story is told over a series of instant messages serves a mechanical purpose as well, as it shines a light onto the thought process of the player character’s choices, and how sometimes people aren’t able to express what they’re truly feeling. You’ll see how the player initially writes one thing, only to delete it and rephrase it another way. It’s a minor touch, but it’s very indicative on how the medium people use to communicate can affect the messages themselves. For anyone who has any fondness for AIM, Emily is Away is a game worth playing. And it's free!

  • 1/7/2019

    5/5 - Emily is Away Too takes the great premise of the first game and expands and refines it in such a smart way. The amount of detail in all of the profiles, music links, and away messages is super impressive, but it’s really the dynamic between the player character and the two new characters, Emily and Evelyn, that makes this game special. Choosing different dialogue options is very common in video games nowadays, but Emily is Away Too takes the concept of player choice and presents it back to the player in such a unique fashion that it's something that I don’t want to spoil here. I can’t wait for the third one.

  • 1/9/2019

    5/5 - There’s nothing overtly complex about the narrative of Florence. But with its fantastic art style combined with a smattering of poignant and clever gameplay moments, Florence makes its heart-breaking and touching story stick with you for a long time.

  • 4/5 - If Baba Is You had just a slightly more lenient and forgiving learning curve, this would have easily been in my top 5 games of the year. This is a wildly creative puzzle game that makes you feel like such a genius each time you solve a challenge. And because the way you interact with this game is by changing the properties of the level, it really makes you feel like a programmer or tester that is tinkering with the code of the game. But I think the ramp up in difficulty is just a tad out of tune, and the game gets way too hard, way too fast. I wish there were more levels letting the player get more familiar with each mechanic so when the devilishly hard levels come your way, you would feel better equipped to deal with such conundrums.

  • 2/23/2019

    4/5 - I knew a lot about this game going due to the website you’re most likely reading this on. But that didn’t stop me from loving every minute of this wacky murder playground. Improvising on the fly and hatching a plan by the seat of your pants is fun, but I also thoroughly enjoyed playing through the story missions and witnessing the crazy scenarios the game presented to you. Even though I knew a lot of the game going in, Hitman was still an uproariously good time.

  • 7/20/2019

    4/5 - Hitman 2 adds a plethora of smart changes to the core gameplay of the first game, and it makes engaging in its absurd scenarios all the more fun and streamlined. And because I played the first game after the second one had come out, I was able to experience Hitman 1 with all of these improvements as well.

  • 3/31

    4/5 - The fluidity of the combat and movement is top notch in Hyper Light Drifter. But at the same time, the slight pause that would happen each time you would swing the sword and make contact with the enemy made the combat feel weighty and satifsfying. And the whole audiovisual package reminded me of Fez, and any game that reminds me of Fez has already done a damn fine job.

  • 3/25/2019 (By "finished" I mean "watching all of Bennett Foddy's commentary on YouTube after playing the game and failing for 30 minutes.")

    4/5 - I never really became all that great at the actual gameplay itself, but the main draw for me was really Bennett Foddy’s commentary over the entire experience. This entire package is such a weird, fascinating approach to delivering a message through games, and I love it for it.

  • 6/23/2019

    4/5 - The themes that SOMA tackles are well-trodden territory, but the totality of the narrative does a fantastic job of portraying the complex nature of human consciousness. Everything about the premise and setting was gripping start to finish, and the ending especially was an incredible, bittersweet moment. And if the gameplay had held up its end of the bargain, SOMA might’ve been one of my favorite games I played this year. But the stealth sequences where you have to run away from the monsters were dull and laborious, if not at times downright frustrating.

  • 10/5/2019

    4/5 - Although there was more change in the overall structure of the game in Gears 5 with the presence of the Skiff and the more open world, this is a Gears of War game through and through. Sure, you’re using the Skiff to traverse some of the biggest areas the franchise has ever had, but once you reach the marked points of interest, you’re still doing the same third-person shooting that has been a cornerstone of the series since 2006. And while the shooting is probably the best it’s ever been, it’s impossible to not get a little fatigued on the entire thing. Thankfully, playing cooperatively alongside my girlfriend still made this a very enjoyable game, especially in an era where splitscreen is becoming a relic of the past.

  • 4/15/2019

    4/5 - I’m very grateful I was able to experience this PS2 classic with the PS4 remaster. Sure, the controls are a little clunky and the camera can be a bit wonky, but this is just a beautiful game through and through. I just think that having a game be comprised of 16 unique boss fights is such a cool conceit. Considering the fact that the game was made in 2005, it’s a testament to its design that it still feels like a fresh concept this many years later.

  • 2/24/2019

    4/5 - Donut County was the perfect mobile game for me. A short but fully realized game with a simple yet surprisingly engaging gameplay mechanic. Seeing that hole get bigger and swallowing buildings whole never got old. And that Quack Anthem slaps.

  • 9/14/2019

    4/5 - If there’s one word I would use to describe Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it would be “meaty.” There’s just so much to chew on in this game: three full playable campaigns, companion quests, lots of side activities, and so much more. But it was such a huge bummer for me that members of my party weren’t able to reach S ranks with each other. One of my favorite elements of the previous Fire Emblem games was playing cupid and matching up characters who I personally thought would be best with one another. Even though this one of the most substantial games I played this year, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that Three Houses didn’t have one of my favorite aspects of the Fire Emblem series.

  • 6/2/2019

    4/5 - All of the puzzles in Puzzle Agent 2 are pretty standard fare you would see in games like Professor Layton, but the quirky charm surrounding the entire experience is what makes this game memorable to me. Puzzle Agent 2 is the only other game on this list and can compete with Control for having the coolest fictional subdivision of the FBI. I’m not sure which branch I would to be in more: the Puzzle Research Division, or the Federal Bureau of Control...

  • 4/15/2019

    3/5 - Mega Man 9 was a neat little retro throwback when it first came out, and as someone who’s beaten all of the mainline Mega Man games, this was always on my list. One of the most notable things about this game was always its difficulty, and the people weren’t lying. In fact, I don’t remember the previous 8 Mega Man games being as hard as this one, as this game seemed unreasonably challenging.

  • 9/6/2019

    3/5 - My favorite part of Until Dawn was the first half of the game: where you make personality decisions as you play as snide, shitty teenagers while simultaneously trying to comprehend the insane shit that's happening all around the characters. My least favorite part of Until Dawn was the second half of the game: where you basically have to run away from a murderous entity the entire time and make decisions only purely focused on surviving. Unfortunately, with Man of Medan being a shorter experience, I think it mostly centered around the choices that had to do with escaping death. All that being said, playing the Movie Night mode with my girlfriend was still a fun time, and I'm curious to see what Supermassive Games does with the next chapter in the anthology.